10 tips for saving cash using daily deal sitesDelving into online coupons can be a little like getting cheap air fare for a 3 a.m. flight. At the time, you’re psyched. But sitting in the terminal with the cleaning crew at 2:00 a.m., you realize you should have paid the extra money to sleep in.

Sometimes the hassle just isn’t worth it.

But here’s the thing: daily deals are everywhere and if you’re not using them, you may be spending more money than you should. It only takes a few minutes to get set up and start buying at discount prices.

Here are 10 tips that can save you cash on daily deal sites, starting with…

1. Find the sites that work for you
There are five well-established and organized sites you may want to consider: Groupon, livingsocial, BuyWithMe (BWM), Bloomspot, and HomeRun.

Most sites offer a wide range of products, while others are a bit more tailored. If you are looking for deals on vacations or airfare, then Bloomspot and BWM would be a good match. For spa services, try Living Social and HomeRun. And Groupon has a variety of deals, including great restaurant and drink specials.

Other top sites you may want to try include Gilt CityLifebooker (New York and Los Angeles only), Social Buy, Scoutmob, The Dealmap, 8coupons, Yipit, and Tippr.

2. If you feel like it’s a scam, it probably is
You can’t get something for nothing. If the deal seems too good to be true, well … it probably is, so beware.

3. Beware of price inflation
Some companies are all too willing to boost their prices purely to sweeten the deal for a given coupon. If a deal promises 50% off of a $100 service, make sure the service really is worth $100—and not, say, fifty bucks.

4. Don’t skip Yelp (or another customer review site)
So, got a coupon promising half-off for the best sushi in town? Don’t just take the restaurant’s word for it. Read customer reviews of the places offering the deal before you plunk down your credit card. It only takes a few minutes to read some reviews and get a flavor for whether people love it or hate it.

5. Read the fine print
The devil’s in the details, particularly when it comes to coupons. For example…

  • The quoted prices on your coupon typically don’t include tax (but don’t expect these deals to be tax-free), so make sure to factor that into your budget.
  • Look out for “New customers only” or “Limit one per person,” since you don’t want to end up with five massage sessions when the spa will only allow you one. (Although these extras can make great gifts!)
  • Don’t forget about the expiration date. There is some ambiguity here and laws vary from state to state but most of the time, the customer is refunded the value by the merchant, not the daily deal site.
  • Some deals have specific instructions (e.g. call ahead to reserve a spot), so make sure you’re up to speed with their policies. This will save you time and headaches.

6. Manage your inbox
Daily email blasts from your favorite coupon sites are a nuisance, no question. Unfortunately, you can’t really avoid them unless you opt out of all e-mails—and that means you might miss out on some good deals.

Carefully setting your email preferences and signing up for only the sites you like can cut down on the spam. Another option: consider creating a separate email account devoted just to coupon deals.

7. Complain if you’re not happy
The best coupon sites generally have a large network of customer service reps, and they know unhappy customers will destroy their business. So if you’re not satisfied, let them know! Often they’ll offer another coupon, voucher, or a credit.

8. Don’t buy something only because it’s an amazing deal
Whitewater rafting for 80% off? Great! But if you don’t know who’d want to go with you, or you’re not quite sure how you’d get there—or maybe you’re not much of a swimmer—you might want to pass, regardless of the savings. After all, just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you need to buy it.

9. Don’t let the ticking timer scare you into an impulse buy
If you’re not sure about it, don’t click “buy” just because you’re short on time. There are always similar deals out there, you won’t be missing out.

10. Get a do-over on your coupons
Having buyer’s remorse about a deal, and customer service isn’t being sympathetic? Never fear; you can always trade or sell your coupon at sites like Lifesta.com, DealsGoRound.com and CoupRecoup.com.